Ed Smart, LGBT community and allies share thoughts on inclusion at Encircle conference

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Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, is interviewed during the Encircle Summit’s red carpet event. (Rebecca Nissen)

Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, and performers and speakers took part in Encircle’s third annual LGBTQ+ Summit held at Podium on Dec. 7. Encircle, a nonprofit organization that aids LGBT youth, hosted hundreds of members, supporters and other interested parties who gathered for workshops and performances from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Smart, who came out as gay in August at age 64, was the event’s keynote speaker.

During the red carpet event held before the dinner and closing session, Smart shared his thoughts regarding LGBT inclusion at BYU. He said that because it’s a private university, those who want to attend have to follow the set university standards. However, there are drawbacks to this.

“I think that there may be things that are difficult. I mean, people can get fairly outspoken, and I respect that,” Smart said. “I also respect the fact that the LDS Church is trying to set a standard that they believe in, and whether you agree with it or not, isn’t really too much up for debate.”

Smart recalled his own experience attending college — part of which took place at BYU. He talked about the inner conflict he faced in understanding the expectations he had for himself and of the community he lived in.

“I think during a lot of that experience, I was still on this path that I thought it was wrong to be gay, to be queer,” Smart said. “And so because of that, I tried to deny it as much as possible and avoid any conflict that was there.”

Smart continued to explain that, through religion, he learned a lot about himself and about the sort of person he didn’t want to be. He talked about learning to accept who he was and realizing he was not going to change.

“Do I want to make my life miserable for the rest of (my life) or do I want to try to make the most of it?” he asked.

Rob Morris, vice president of culture and community at Younique Products, talked about his thoughts regarding Smart’s influence in both the Latter-day Saint and LGBT communities.

Those in attendance at the Encircle Summit red carpet event converse and taste a variety of colorful foods. (Rebecca Nissen)

“It’s amazing to see someone in that spotlight that just comes out and says and owns it,” Morris said. “I think it’s a huge impact on the community.”

Maxwell Poth, a photographer for Project Contrast, talked about the attendance and support he found during the Encircle Summit event from youth and adults alike.

“I think it’s just impactful because, after seeing this, you can really see how much support there is in this community,” Poth said.

Conor McKenzie, a content creator and event performer, added to what Poth said.

“I think it’s important for representation,” McKenzie said. “Being able to come to an event like this — being a queer person — being able to come and meet other queer people that have the same ideals and the same passions and abilities, to be able to do that is so nice.”

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